HUGE NEWS: this is our first international episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project! And the Canadians I talked to could not have been nicer: you’ll hear from senior citizens playing lawn bowling in the suburbs. You’ll sit on the sidewalk as a blues guitarist serenades us. And most climactic of all, you’ll observe a butter tart bake-off at a fancy hotel, listening to judges and pastry chefs alike. (I’ve been told that this is a HIGHLY Canadian thing to do.)
If you’ve never heard of the project before, check out the page here. When you are mentally prepared to discover who won the Great Canadian Butter Tart Battle, click to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 11: Toronto, Ontario
Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and one of the most multicultural places in the world. It was amalgamated in 1998 from several smaller cities and is crisscrossed by streetcars and subways–although those are often a target of Torontonians’ frustrations. We will learn about lawn bowling from a senior citizens’ league, sample the merchandise in a sex shop, and experience a play-by-play of the Great Canadian Butter Tart Battle. Along the way, we will hear from an immigrant, a city councilor, pastry chefs, a musician, and an educator.
This week, we air the newest episode of the “Best Thing, Worst Thing” project featuring a big-name city: Richmond, Virginia. I talked with many different residents about their favorite and least favorite things about Virginia’s capital. Many brought up the city’s ties to the Confederacy and the legacy of segregation. Others talked about the extensive collection of neighborhoods. You’ll come with me to a rally with the mayor, stroll along an island, and visit the pew where Jefferson Davis sat in church.
For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you are ready to learn which historical figure had turkey quills shoved up his nose, head to the City Council Chronicles podcast to download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Richmond is a city of 220,000 people and the capital of Virginia. It was also the capital of the Confederacy and that legacy still lingers. The James River provides recreational opportunities and the Amtrak station provides a connection to Washington, D.C. and beyond. During our visit, we stand in the middle of the water, attend a rally with the mayor, and visit a restaurant that will be gone in a year. We hear from a real estate agent, some college students, a teacher, a tour guide, people who have moved away and returned, and two political watchdogs.
What’s this? Another installment of the semi-regular “Best Thing, Worst Thing” podcast series? Why, I do believe it is! For an explanation of the project, check out the page here. If you like storytelling and municipal lore, I think you’ll enjoy what the cat dragged in.
If you’ve got the kids already gathered around the fireplace, head over to the City Council Chronicles podcast and download the latest episode. Or you can play it below.
Episode 2: Cheyenne, Wyoming
Photo source: Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce
Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming, population 63,000. It is located in the southeast corner of the state just eight miles from the Colorado border. It exists thanks to the builders of the Transcontinental Railroad. Downtown is fairly compact, with the capitol building at the north end and the historic train station at the south. Government buildings are prevalent and some of the historic homes are quite nice. Although it is the largest city in Wyoming, the population has risen slowly and steadily. In this episode, we hear from a business owner, a firearms instructor, two Chamber of Commerce employees, and a former mayoral candidate.
The Harrisburg city council had a smorgasbord of issues to consider on Tuesday night. And 99 percent of them came from one kindly, train-loving citizen.
“First, my request to city council: please have police officers on Second Street Wednesday night and Thursday–and especially Friday and Saturday night. Check the Sawyer’s restaurant for noise violations. This summer when they had special music concerts, they shut off the music concert by ten o’clock in the evening at the latest. Sometimes, people are not as good.”
The aged man folded his slender arms in front of him, a large black glasses case protruding from his shirt pocket. He spoke haltingly, clearing his throat directly into the microphone–which made it sound like someone was piledriving just outside the chamber.
“Also, there are some fellows who play music instruments on the sidewalk at the pizza shop next to Zembie’s on Friday and Saturday nights. And sometimes they get loud. And my request is to please have police officers there and check on them and make sure they cut off their music by ten o’clock in the evening at the latest.”
But before you label him a run-of-the-mill city hall gadfly, I’ll have you know that this man can do more than lodge noise complaints. In fact, he’s a regular Ferdinand Magellan–traveling the globe from Central Pennsylvania to as far away as Eastern and Western Pennsylvania. And he knows a thing or two about the romance of the rails:
“Okay, another issue: I asked the city of Harrisburg and the state to support adding one additional passenger train on the Amtrak line from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh. The train we have now, it’s a good train. It’s a beautiful, thrilling ride, but the schedule requires at least one overnight stay in Pittsburgh and the hotels that I checked in Pittsburgh are awfully expensive.”
It was barely perceptible, but as he talked more and more about the trains, you could tell THIS was the thing that truly excited him.
“And one other thing: back in June, I went on a beautiful Amtrak train trip that was fantastic from Harrisburg to Philadelphia and Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., and then going across Northern Virginia and West Virginia, and then overnight to Chicago. And the ride I liked the best was going across Virginia and West Virginia and went over the Blue Ridge Mountains. Praise god and the Amtrak people! And the other railroad people also did a great job!”
Hey, Amtrak, are you hiring spokespeople? This guy praised god AND Amtrak people in the same breath! Can you at least give him free rides for life between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh?
Speaking of spokespeople, Council President Wanda Williams had her own exciting transportation announcement:
“I’m proud to say that my husband won the ‘direct support professional’ for the state of Pennsylvania,” she grinned with pride. “He was chosen among 200 other applicants. He represented the state of Pennsylvania in Chicago.”
Then, the bombshell.
“His picture is now on the billboard going towards I-83 south.”
Other council members chuckled approvingly. “Okay!” “Yeah!” they murmured.
Final thoughts: It’s a three-way tie, folks: 10 out of 10 stars to the citizen commenter, the council president’s husband, and trains. Hooray, trains!